Commerce Committee Approves Package of Bills to Help Make Prescription Drugs More Affordable

TRENTON – In support of a coordinated effort to make the cost of health care less burdensome for state residents, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced a three-bill package sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale, Senator Troy Singleton, and Senator Nellie Pou that seeks to make prescription drugs more affordable, establish certain data reporting requirements for the prescription drug supply chain, and to bring about greater price transparency by capping out-of-pocket costs for insulin, asthma inhalers, and EpiPens.

 

“Countless New Jerseyans struggle to afford the expense of prescription medicine, especially senior citizens, low-income families and individuals, and those who live with chronic health conditions,” said Senator Vitale, (D-Middlesex), who serves as Chair of the Senate Health, Human Service and Senior Citizens Committee. 

 

“While we continue to make strides in developing medications that can save lives and treat illnesses, they are of no use if they are unaffordable. Residents shouldn’t be forced to choose between expensive medicines and paying for other basic needs, and they shouldn’t be put in the position of skipping doses to stretch their prescriptions. These bills will bring more transparency and accountability to the drug pricing and distribution process, which will improve access and affordability for consumers.”

 

The bills contained in the legislative package include:

 

S1614 (Vitale/Pou/Singleton) Requires health insurance carriers to provide coverage for epinephrine auto-injector devices and asthma inhalers; limits cost sharing for health insurance coverage of insulin.

S1615 (Singleton/Vitale/Pou) Establishes certain data reporting requirements for the prescription drug supply chain; requires Division of Consumer Affairs to issue annual report on emerging trends in prescription drug pricing; appropriates $900,000.

S1616 (Vitale/Singleton/Pou) Establishes new transparency standards for pharmacy benefits manager business practices.

 

“Our residents should not have to decide between paying for medicine or paying for other living expenses, especially coming off the heels of a global pandemic,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “Putting families in this position is unacceptable and simply unconscionable. With this bill package, we will take a step towards driving down prescription drug costs through collaboration, transparency, and negotiation, which will ultimately make them more affordable.”

 

Nationally, 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. And nearly one in 50 Americans are at risk for anaphylaxis brought on by certain foods, insect bites, medications and latex, according to a 2013 study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

 

“As in other aspects of society, the COVID-19 crisis exposed long-standing disparities in both access to affordable health coverage as well as the ability to obtain prescription drugs for those in our under-served, low-income and minority communities,” said Senator Nellie Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen). “We must find new ways to make prescription drugs affordable for all residents, and work to maintain a better accounting of the trends in drug pricing, and be able to pass that information on to consumers.”

 

A recent AARP study found that Americans pay three times what people in other countries pay for the same drug, and prices for prescription drugs are skyrocketing: the cost for Mylan’s EpiPen brand epinephrine auto-injectors rose six-fold from $100 in 2008 to over $600 in 2016.

 

AARP also found that in 2020, retail prices for 260 widely used brand name prescription drugs increased by 2.9 percent.

 

The bills were all passed out of committee by votes of 4-0.